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Frustration In Saigon

It all started in Phnom Pehn, Cambodia.  And the frustration followed us all the way to Saigon, Vietnam.  The South Vietnamese rebel by continuing to call Ho Chi Minh City by its pre-Vietnam War name of Saigon.  After our experiences at the war monuments, we decided to do the same.

Nutty Moto Traffic in Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) Fixing Our ASUS Computer in Saigon... Smooth

Our usually reliable ASUS netbook conspired against its thoughtful caretakers and decided the battery had run its natural course by refusing to properly charge.  Having been on the world road for eight months we had come to expect Yohan, our computer, to be by our side.  So when he betrayed us in Cambodia, we felt a bit lost.  Luckily, ASUS had a retail facility in Saigon that overnighted a replacement battery for free, even though our manufacturers warranty had expired.  The small headache was cured, but our frustration was just getting started.

War Remnants Museum - American M41 Tank War Remnants Museum - UH-1H Huey Helicopter

War Remnants Museum - UH-1H Huey Helicopter with Canon To be fair, we had been warned that the War Remnants Museum is full of propaganda against America.  These cautionary tales came from the mouths of travelers residing in every corner of globe.  Even they found the anti-American message unjust.  So we went to see for ourselves, with an open mind.  The grounds surrounding the museum were quite interesting, providing a chance to get up close to American military equipment from the Vietnam War era.  A M41 tank, the iconic UH-1H Huey helicopter complete with canon, and the massive CH-47 Chinook dual rotor helicopter were on display in good condition.  Things turned from interesting to lopsided in a matter of minutes, however.

War Remnants Museum - Ash Next To CH-47 American Chinook Dual Rotor Helicopter - v2 War Remnants Museum - Con Dao Prison - Two Tiger Cages

A motif of the infamous Con Dao Prison was constructed and outfitted with genuine “tiger cages” (small enclosures) and examples of barbed wire units used to punish prisoners.  The communist regime of Vietnam that curates the war museum exemplified the French, South Vietnamese, and American atrocities in painstaking detail.  One would think by the biased display that the North Vietnamese were angelic beings during this period of war.  Great space was dedicated to the My Lai massacre (yes, terrible) but disregarded the fact that the Vietcong used flamethrowers to torch 252 Montagnards (Vietnamese mountain people), for example.  The main museum building made our already boiling blood even hotter.  I think most of us can agree that Agent Orange, the forest defoliant, was used improperly.  The Vietnamese people face debilitating disease, tainted water sources, and contaminated soil still today as a result.  This chemical was heavily featured in the museum along with other destruction caused by American forces.  Menacingly, there is once again not a single mention of injustices perpetrated by the North Vietnamese.  Ash and I could only take so much of the negative message about America before we found the whole museum to be ludicrous.  Had the curators made an attempt to level the playing field, visitors would walk away having had an education.  Rather, most paying customers walk away shaking their heads in disbelief.

War Remnants Museum - Effect of Agent Orange War Remnants Museum - US Imperialsim Propaganda

The following day, still aggravated, we journeyed outside Saigon to the Cu Chi Tunnels.  This historic labyrinth of underground passageways, kitchens, storage areas, and living quarters was utilized by the Vietcong as protection from US bombing and a means of attacking their foe.  We had a hard time exploring the grounds from which many Americans perished.  The tunnels themselves are impressive and it takes immense imagination to envisage living below the surface for months, even giving birth if necessary.  The entrances were disguised so well that Vietcong soldiers could sneak up, fire on enemy troops, and disappear undetected.  Our guide swept dead leaves away from one such entryway and indicated the exit spot a mere twenty feet away.  So you just walk through the tunnel and come out over there, piece of cake. So we thought.  Amongst a group of ten, Ash went in sixth, her arms placed directly over her head in order to fit through the tiny hole in the ground.  Ten minutes passed and I went in last, no sign of Ashley on the other end.  Inside was unlike anything for which we could have prepared.  It was a maze of turns six feet below the surface with absolutely no natural light.  Mix ten terrified tourists armed with a few cell phones providing lights, bats flying into our hair, and just enough space to crawl on your hands and knees.  It was pandemonium for twenty short feet and fifteen long minutes.

Cu Chi Underground Tunnels - Bat Cu Chi Underground Tunnels - So Small, Ash is on Her Butt

Cu Chi Tunnels - Viet Cong Underground System - American B-52 Bomb Crater Glad to be above ground, some underground explorers were shedding tears of fear.  So we moved along to observe B-52 bomb craters, booby traps with iron spikes, and a sorted amount of leftover American ordinance.  The forest path led us to the shooting range where an array of weapons to fire awaited us.  Grenade launcher, American M16 or M60, or a Soviet AK47?  The grenade launcher was going to be way out of our price range… dang it!  At my insistence, we opted for the Soviet semi-automatic rifle.  Ash rattled off two rounds from the AK47 before stepping away too terrified to let loose on the metal target resembling a hog.  I stepped in and fired the remaining eight rounds, one glancing the the pig’s head.  As I was collecting a few spent rounds for souvenirs, which would later result in me being detained in Dubai, UAE, a gentlemen let one hundred rounds loose from the powerful M60.  The noise was deafening.  The Cu Chi Tunnels had been nothing like the War Remnants propaganda BS.  That was until the documentary film began.  One fellow Yank, whose father fought in Vietnam, stepped out after fifteen minutes of sensationalism upon the words referencing American “devils in the sky.”  Ash and I watched the whole film in a dumbfounded stuper.

Cu Chi Tunnels - Viet Cong Underground System - Greg Going Under Cu Chi Tunnels - Shooting Range - Ash Prepping Her AK47

Amazing. Thirty-five years later, the Vietnam government still feels the need to rally support against America by depicting us as hellions in every which way. In contrast, the citizens of Saigon could not have been more accommodating to us.  Frustrating.

- Greg and Ash

Learn From Our Footsteps:

1) American culture pervades nearly every society in the world.  Entertainment, food, politics, beverage, fashion, music, etc.  For this reason, nearly everyone has an opinion of the United States.  We have heard our fair share of negative comments, some meant to be personally hurtful.  It is like your little sister being insulted.  Sadly, some uninformed international visitors to Saigon took the propaganda as 100% factual and partook in the American bashing, making sure we heard them loud and clear.  Instead of creating a scene and giving them the joy of upsetting us, we simply walked away with a firm bite on our tongues.  Take the higher road, if possible.

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